cabbage

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a cultivated vegetable (brassica oleracea) with a round heart or head, a useful food for stock. Other varieties are grown for human consumption.

Food

  • The most common member of the Brassica family, Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group), which consists of green, white or reddish leaves springing from a central stalk either loosely as in spring cabbage or in a tight pointed or round mass of layered leaves with some open outer leaves. The white varieties are often eaten raw or fermented but all may be pickled, fermented, boiled, stewed, braised or fried. The coarser outer green leaves are a major source of folic acid essential to prevent some birth defects.

Slang

  • noun money. This is a lighthearted 1950s expression rarely heard today. The term was used for instance by ‘Flash Harry’ (played by george Cole) in the film The Pure Hell of St Trinians in 1960. Lettuce was a more popular alternative, with the same derivation from the ‘green and leafy’ nature of banknotes.
  • noun a brain-damaged, inert or incapable person

Travel

  • noun a green leafy vegetable with a round heart or head

Origin & History of “cabbage”

The shape of a cabbage, reminiscent of someone’s head, led to its being named in Old French caboce, which meant literally ‘head’. English acquired the word via the Old Northern French variant caboche (whose modern French descendant caboche, in the sense ‘head’, is said to provide the basis for Boche, the contemptuous term for ‘Germans’). It is not known where it comes from ultimately; etymologists used to link it with Latin caput ‘head’, but that theory is no longer generally accepted. The Old English word for ‘cabbage’ was cāwel, which remains with us in the form of various Germanic relatives such as kohl-rabi, cauliflower, and Scottish kale.
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